Shadows of Ghadames

Shadows of Ghadames

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by Joelle Stolz

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Why is a girl forbidden to read or receive an education? This story about a Muslim girl bound by traditional Islamic customs but who yearns for something more explores women’s rights, freedom, religion, and identity.
In the Libyan city of Ghadames, Malika watches her merchant father depart on one of his caravan expeditions. She too

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Why is a girl forbidden to read or receive an education? This story about a Muslim girl bound by traditional Islamic customs but who yearns for something more explores women’s rights, freedom, religion, and identity.
In the Libyan city of Ghadames, Malika watches her merchant father depart on one of his caravan expeditions. She too yearns to travel to distant cities, and longs to learn to read like her younger brother. But nearly 12 years old, and soon to be of marriagable age, Malika knows that—like all Muslim women—she must be content with a more secluded, more limited life. Then one night a stranger enters her home . . . someone who disrupts the traditional order of things—and who affects Malika in unexpected ways.

“I was enchanted by this story of a brave Berber girl who dares to dream and its filigree of details about harem life, ancient trade routes, goddesses and healers. The real beauty of The Shadows of Ghadames is that it transcends the exotic to explore universal truths about the condition of being human.”—Suzanne Fisher Staples, author of the Newbery Honor Book Shabanu: Daughter of the Wind

*“Stolz invigorates her tale with elegant prose and a deft portrayal of a girl verging on adolescence. The vivid backdrop is intoxicating, but the story’s universal concerns will touch readers most.”—BooklistStarred

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
Eleven-year-old Malika aspires to travel when her father journeys to faraway markets. Instead, she is confined to her late nineteenth-century Libyan home and the rooftops where women thrive in a vibrant community while men control the streets. After her father's departure, Malika's life is complicated when Bilkisu, her father's second wife, boldly rescues a wounded man, Abdelkarim, who entered the city to preach rivals' religious beliefs. Enraged citizens attacked him for not conforming. Malika's mother, Meriem, reluctantly agrees to hide Abdelkarim in their rooftop pantry. They nurse his wounds, while worrying others will find and hurt him. Because their actions are contrary to cultural customs and gender roles, they risk public disdain and punishment. While Abdelkarim is hidden, he teaches Malika to read and write. She gains a greater awareness and tolerance of ideas and customs foreign to her community. Helping Abdelkarim escape disguised as a woman, Malika experiences a liberating nighttime festival when females are allowed to move freely past the city's gates. Malika's father gives her a telescope, encouraging her to see beyond Ghadames, stargaze, and dream. This novel's females are independent, strong, and resourceful, mentoring each other, questioning rules, and adjusting societal expectations. Novels with exotic settings featuring girls who gain autonomy and power within restrictive cultures include Susan Fletcher's Shadow Spinner (1998), and Gloria Whelan's Homeless Bird (2000). 2004 (orig. 1999), Delacorte, Ages 11 up.
—Elizabeth D. Schafer
School Library Journal
Gr 5-8-In Libya at the end of the 19th century, upper-class women were confined to their homes and rooftops, leading a quiet life filled with household tasks. Nearly 12, Malika is about to enter that world, although not without regret for the loss of freedom and the education her brother has. Her father's two wives offer her good models: her upper-class mother, the "wife from home," who calmly runs the household, and her brother's mother, the "wife from the journey," who moves more freely about the city, still veiled and hiding in dark alleys when a man appears. In spite of their upbringing and their husband's departure on business, the two women rescue a man injured outside their home. Abdelkarim remains hidden with them while they nurse his wounds, and as he recovers, he and Malika come to see that the world of women is richer than they thought. He teaches Malika her alphabet before he is smuggled away, and her mother, admitting that times are changing, finally agrees to let her learn to read. This quiet story is notable for the intimate picture of the traditional Muslim world that it conveys; unfortunately, not until the author's note at the end is the time period made evident. The imprecise use of language may make it difficult for readers to visualize this distant world and to understand the characters' motivations. Still, this novel would be useful in schools studying this part of the world.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A Muslim child poised on the threshold of adulthood comes to understand that her world is less constrained than she supposes. Bolstered by centuries of custom, the streets of the Libyan city of Ghadames are considered men's territory, while, with limited exceptions, the women are confined to the connected rooftops. Though Malika has the freedom of those rooftops, she yearns for more: to travel with her merchant father, to learn to read, to see what lies beyond the heavy veils and limited roles that women are expected to assume. But she gets startling insight into just how powerful and complex that woman's world is when, with her father away on business, his two wives defy law and morality by sheltering a wounded fugitive in the house. Setting her tale at the end of the 19th century, Stolz not only weaves the sights, sounds, and daily rhythms of life in Ghadames into a vivid tapestry, she creates a cast of distinct characters, each of which displays a unique blend of strengths and weaknesses, as well as sometimes unexpected intelligence and compassion. (Fiction. 11-13)

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Product Details

Random House Children's Books
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Random House
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File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

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Shadows of Ghadames 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
shellbellMF More than 1 year ago
The cultural depiction of life in the city of Ghadames described in this book is incredibly accurate. Although the characters are imaginary, the traditions and characteristics proposed by the characters in this book represent true Muslim traditions. Topics such as traditions, customs, ceremonies, duties, religion, and responsibilities are all covered in this book. While reading this book, the main character Malika will search for her own identity as a women in the city of Ghadames. She experiences what it is like to be a Muslim woman and how her responsibilities will become a reality as she gets older. You will learn what it means to find your own identity in a world that seems strange. This book is a great source for teachers who would be introducing new units on different countries, cultures, or races. Students will gain a stronger understanding of the Muslim religion as well as the roles of men and women around the world. It would be a great idea to read this book and then create a compare and contrast assignment where students compare the roles of women and men back then to the roles of women and men in modern times. Overall the children would gain far greater knowledge about other cultures and customs by reading this book.